GŻIRA UNITED 4
Maia 1, 17
Beye 56og; Muscat 89
J. Haber-7, G. Bohrer-6, Steve Borg-6 (90 K. Pulo), N. Muscat-5.5, M.Davis-6.5, N. Portelli-6, Maxuell-7 (63 B. Atajic-), J. Mendoza-5.5, R. Correa-7.5, Sacha Borg-5.5, Jefferson-6 (74 C. Borg).
I. Akpan-5, M. Beye-4, D. Venancio-6, N- Leone-5, K. Keqi-5 (66 S. Arab-6), J. Arias-6, B. Paiber-5 (66 J. Busuttil-4) , M. Garcia-5 (80 D. Agius), A. Cini-4, F. Cheveresan-5.5, R. Camenzuli-5.
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Yellow cards: Correia, Paiber, Mendoza, Garcia, Atajic.
Player of the match: Maxuell Maia (Gżira United).
Gżira rekindled their hopes of a title push with an impressive display of football which sent Floriana crashing to a heavy defeat.
With the win, the Maroons have now joined Sliema Wanderers in third place on 28 points, but are still six adrift of leaders Ħamrun Spartans and four behind second-placed Hibernians
The result could inflict deep and last scars in the Floriana ranks, not so,much for the manner in which they succumbed to their opponents’ shelling as to the repurcussions there could be if the Greens fail to regenerate the spirit expected from a team defending the title.
In contrast to vibrant Gżira United, Floriana seemed a pale and sad imitation of the side that won the championship last season.
Straight from kick-off, Jefferson played a long pass to Ricardo Correa on the left flank. Maxuell ghosted past his marker and buried the Uruguayan wingback’s teasing cross past Ini Akpan to get the Maroons off to a flying start.
The Brazilian’s goal set the tone for the match. And shortly afterwards, Akpan’s goal was breached again. Nevin Portelli picked the ball up on the right before passing to Martin Davis. The Jamaican winger crossed into the box, allowing Maxuell to finish a great move.
Despite Gżira’s superiority, Floriana did have their chances to get back into the game.
On the half hour mark, it was a point-blank save by Justin Haber which denied Kristian Keqi’s header on a cross by Paiber.
On 35 minutes, Haber had to be again at his best to keep out a stunning free-kick by Diego Venancio which he palmed away as it was arrowed towards the top right-hand corner.
A header by Flavio Cheveresan from a pinpoint Venancio cross brought out another smart stop from Haber.
Floriana’s abject misery deepened on 56 minutes when Moustapha Beye inadvertently turned Jefferson’s header into his own goal.
The moment every Gżira supporter had been waiting for arrived on 63 minutes when the former Celtic midfielder Bahrudin Atajic replaced Maxuell.
On their part, the Greens made a double switch with Jan Busuttil and Siraj Arab coming on for Paiber and Keqi respectively.
Arab made an immediate impact when he scored a tidy consolation, after Cheveresan played a quick free-kick on Josè Arias Ulises. Haber denied the Argentine’s attempt but the former Floriana goalkeeper could do nothing when Arab slotted in the rebound.
But Gżira capped a fine afternoon one minute from time. Correa mustered a shot from outside the box which Akpan failed to hold onto. The rebound broke to Nikolai Muscat who slotted the ball into the net and cap a miserable afternoon for Floriana.